Triggering America

It’s the guns

By Joey Kennedy

I believe in the Second Amendment’s promise: Americans have a right to bear arms. That’s part of our nation’s culture.

People who don’t particularly appreciate or respect my left-leaning ideology, though, call me a “libtard” who just wants to take away their firearms.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’ve been around guns and I have owned guns all my life.

My father took me deer hunting when I was about 10 years old. It was a cold, early morning in Southeastern Texas. We walked through the woods for about an hour and climbed into a tree stand. Dad had the gun, but I was armed with a book. I read, he looked around. We were there four or five hours and never saw a deer. We climbed down and went home, leaving me with the impression that deer hunting was awfully boring.

A few years ago, a close friend wanted to correct that impression. He convinced me to go deer hunting with him, and I was curious. We road an ATV down a trail at a hunting camp in Wilcox County, parked, and walked through the woods for about an hour. At one point, Bill looked at me and quipped: “Do you think you could make a little more noise?” I got the message.

We settled on a short hill, behind some scrub, and at dusk, using his wife’s deer rifle, I shot a 125-pound doe. I felt bad, OK? But Veronica and I ate that deer for a year.

When I was 18 or so, and a very rookie newspaper reporter, a Terrebonne Parish (La.) school board member convinced me to go rabbit hunting with him and some of his friends. We boated through the swamp to his hunting cabin. I was armed with my grandfather’s 16-gauge shotgun that had side-by-side barrels. I literally blew a rabbit in half after shooting the little critter with the full-choke barrel instead of the barrel that spreads the shot. I got the triggers mixed up. I’m not proud.

I’ve owned pistols, and I sometimes traded them to friends for art when I no longer wanted them.

After my father was shot in the chest by his third wife (he survived), he gave me a .357 magnum revolver he swore was owned once by a Texas Ranger. I didn’t really want to keep the gun, so I took it to my favorite firearms shop to sell it. I told my friend, the shop’s owner, that it was once used by a Texas Ranger. He asked me what the story behind the gun was.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It was a Texas Ranger’s gun.”

“You need to come up with a story,” he replied. “It’ll fetch a higher price.”

I had no story, though, and sold the gun to Tom for $500.

So I’m OK with guns. Generally.

Yet, gun violence in this country is out of control. Our gun culture has led to, literally, a Wild West mentality in some folks. They just have to carry their AR-15’s and semi-automatic handguns into Walmart and the grocery store to simply prove they can.

A State Trooper or sheriff has no idea when he makes a traffic stop what a driver may be carrying on the passenger seat next to him.

Mistakes are made. People die. Families are wrecked.

Nothing changes.

Then there are the intentional mass shootings that happen so often we’re becoming numb to them. Fifty-eight killed at an outdoor concert, or 49 killed at a nightclub, or 32 killed on a college campus, or 26 killed at a church, or 22 killed at a department store, or 17 killed at a high school, or 11 killed at a synagogue. Twenty-seven teachers and first- and second-graders killed at a Connecticut elementary school.

Since 1999, nearly 1,000 killed and thousands more injured in mass shootings. As Axios’ Mike Allen recently reported, the deadliest mass shootings have one fact in common: “The perpetrator used an assault rifle.” It matters, Axios says, because assault rifles “amplify the destructive will of the person who carries out an attack. . . . Nine people died and 27 were injured in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, . . . that lasted 32 seconds. The killer used an AR-15 style assault rifle.”

Yes, I believe in the Second Amendment, but not without regulation. Only the military or police should have access to assault-style weapons that can easily be converted to fully automatic killing machines. We need Red Flag laws so that somebody who may be a danger to others or himself will lose his guns until he is well. And we should demand full, universal background checks for every gun sale.

These are the minimum, reasonable, common-sense ideas that can begin to undo the culture of gun violence we seem so willing to accept.

Something is wrong with us.

No other First-World nation has the killing culture we do. It’s not violent video games; Australians, Chinese, and Brits have violent video games. It’s not violent movies and television; the French and Germans and Spaniards have violent movies and television. And it’s not simply a mental health issue; every nation has mentally ill citizens.

What we do have that no other nation does, though, is millions of guns. Literally, more guns than people.

By the time you read this, more than likely there will have been other mass shootings, and thousands more gun deaths – by suicide and by evil intent.

There must be reasonable regulation and restrictions on our beloved Second Amendment, because more guns will not curb gun violence. •

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